12 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica (By Quality of Life)

Jon Miksis Jon Miksis clock Updated December 24, 2023 tourism Dream Destinations
by Jem
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Costa Rica is more than a destination; it’s a vibrant tapestry of nature and culture. From the misty cloud forests to the tranquil beaches and the lively streets of San José, this tropical paradise offers a symphony of environments and experiences. Yet, with its rich biodiversity, picking the perfect place to settle can seem overwhelming. To assist you in your quest, I’ve crafted a guide to the finest locales Costa Rica has to offer.

My journeys through Costa Rica have revealed the country’s stunning variety and charm. From the eco-friendly communities of Monteverde to the surf havens of the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica’s array of choices is unparalleled. If beachfront living and raw nature are up your alley, there’s a spot in Costa Rica that seems tailor-made for you.

So, where should you begin? The perfect place is different for each person. Some may seek the serenity of a beachside village, while others the cultural heartbeat of urban settings. And many consider the cost of living to be crucial.

Join me as I unveil the top cities and towns to call home, tailored to what you cherish most. As someone who has immersed themselves in the country’s many splendors, I’m here to navigate you through the best places in Costa Rica. I’ve delved into research, analyzed data, and engaged with residents to compile a list that accommodates every preference and budget. Let’s embark on this journey!

The top places to live in Costa Rica for all

The Best Places to Live in Costa Rica

Eager to explore the most enchanting places to call home in Costa Rica? Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, this Central American gem offers a locale for every preference. Continue reading to uncover the top living destinations in Costa Rica.

Wondering what are the best places to live in Costa Rica? Whether it’s adventure, tranquility, or anything in between you’re after, Costa Rica has a place that can meet your desires.

  • Best for a perfect climate: Atenas
  • Best for history and culture: Cartago
  • Best for surfing and beaches: Dominical
  • Best for luxury and expats: Escazú
  • Best for beach life and adventure: Guanacaste
  • Best for education and family life: Heredia
  • Best for Caribbean culture: Limón
  • Best for eco-tourism and nature: Monteverde
  • Best for city life and business: San José
  • Best for beach town living: Tamarindo
  • Best for wildlife and tranquility: Uvita

Below are the prime spots in Costa Rica that you need to know about:

1. Atenas

Atenas, oh Atenas! This little town in Costa Rica is a slice of heaven. It’s famous for having one of the best climates in the world. Imagine living where the weather is always perfect. That’s Atenas for you.

The vibe here is pure Pura Vida – peaceful, friendly, and laid-back. The locals are welcoming, always ready with a smile and a helping hand. It’s a small town, but it’s got a big heart. You’ll feel at home in no time.

What I love about Atenas is its simplicity. Life here is about enjoying the small things. Fresh local fruits from the market, stunning mountain views, and lazy afternoons in the central park. It’s a place where you can slow down and really savor life.

Living in Atenas means being part of a close-knit community. It’s perfect for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle. Here, you’re not just finding a new home; you’re finding a new family.

Atenas is a small piece of paradise nestled in Costa Rica.
Atenas is a small piece of paradise nestled in Costa Rica.

2. Cartago

With a long and rich history, Cartago claims to have been Costa Rica’s first city. Its streets whisper stories of the past, and the lush fields around it call out with the promise of natural beauty. One of the coolest places to live in Costa Rica is this city, which is surrounded by hills and mountains and has a mix of old and new charm.

People who live in Cartago enjoy a way of life that is full of cultural past. This was shown by the well-preserved ruins and the beautiful Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels. The city’s markets are a mix of tastes and colors that give you a real and fun look into everyday life there.

At night, the city’s lights shine against the impressive Irazú Volcano, making Cartago even more of a great place to live in Costa Rica. In this neighborhood, the sounds of history mix with the sounds of progress. Every street corner has a story, and the richness of life is judged by the connections and experiences you make.

Cartago claims to be the original city of Costa Rica and has an extensive and varied past.
Cartago claims to be the original city of Costa Rica and has an extensive and varied past.

3. Dominical

Dominical is a beach town with a unique rhythm. It is a laid-back place where the jungle meets the sea. The sound of the waves is always there, and the salty breeze brings the spirit of Pura Vida with it. It feels like time has stopped there, and the way of life is as free-flowing as the water that shapes the shores. For people who love the ocean, this is one of the best places in Costa Rica to live.

Dominical’s streets are full of unique shops and restaurants, each one showcasing the lively spirit of the people who live there. There are people who love to surf, people who love nature, and people who have chosen to live their lives by the waves instead of the busy city life.

Dominic’s allure as a nice city to live in Costa Rica is undeniable as the sun goes down and casts a golden glow over the Pacific. Every sunset is a party there, it’s easy to make friends in the sand, and the next morning brings the promise of another day in paradise.

The coast meets the jungle in the peaceful community of Dominical.
The coast meets the jungle in the peaceful community of Dominical.

4. Escazú

It’s often called the “Beverly Hills of Costa Rica,” and Escazú is a city where high-class life and the magic of history mix perfectly. Here, modernity and custom meet. The old adobe homes and folklore-filled festivals are in stark contrast to the fancy shopping malls and restaurants. Because of its unique character, this city is the best place to live in Costa Rica for people who want to live a high-class life with a bit of Costa Rican culture.

There are gated neighborhoods and private homes all over the city, and some of them have views that go from the green valley to the bright lights of San José. Rich locals and tourists alike love Escazú because it has all the amenities and services that a picky population could want.

Escazú is a place where comfort is key and the better things in life are easy to get to. It is surrounded by mountains. It’s the best place to live in Costa Rica because it has both a big city feel and a quiet place to escape to.

In Escazú, the allure of history and affluent living combine harmoniously.
In Escazú, the allure of history and affluent living combine harmoniously.

5. Guanacaste

The sun-drenched coast and image as a tropical playground are what draw people to Guanacaste. This area is known for its dry, savanna-like climate. It has golden beaches, rolling hills, and a rustic charm. One of the best areas to live in Costa Rica for beach lovers and sun worshipers is this region, where excitement beckons with every wave and sunset.

Here are some of the most well-known beaches in the country. Each one has its own style, from the lively Tamarindo to the calm Playa Hermosa. Not only a place to visit, Guanacaste is also a way of life for people who want to live by the ocean.

It’s easy to see why Guanacaste is known as one of the best places to live in Costa Rica as the day ends and the sky turns into a fiery painting. Life is always a vacation here, and everyone is as friendly as the weather. Guanacaste has a piece of paradise for everyone, whether they want to surf the perfect wave or find peace in a quiet bay.

Guanacaste is known for its sun-kissed shoreline and reputation as a tropical playground.
Guanacaste is known for its sun-kissed shoreline and reputation as a tropical playground.

6. Heredia

Heredia, also called the “City of Flowers,” is a lively mix of city life and old-fashioned beauty. Because it is home to so many schools, this city is full of life and has a young vibe. It’s one of the best cities to live in Costa Rica for students and academics because history is written on the walls of old buildings and the future is created in classrooms there.

There are a lot of people in the city’s center park, which is surrounded by coffee shops and street vendors. In Heredia, where tradition and technology live together in peace, daily life moves to the beat of Costa Rican life.

Heredia’s appeal as a nice part of Costa Rica is enhanced by its cultural offerings, from theaters to museums, which give visitors a taste of the nation’s rich history as the cool mountain air settles in the evenings. People in the city know each other by name, and the pace of life is just right.

Heredia is a vibrant fusion of modern urban living and classic beauty.
Heredia is a vibrant fusion of modern urban living and classic beauty.

7. Limón

The streets of Limón are alive with the rhythms of Afro-Caribbean culture. These rhythms can be felt in every part of daily life. This includes from the lively music to the delicious food and rich customs. The port city on the Caribbean Sea is a lively mix of people and places, and the pace of life is as slow as the palm trees. It’s truly one of the best Costa Rica cities for those looking to fully experience the country’s culture.

The city’s beating heart is its carnival. This is a yearly show of costumes and calypso that turns the streets into a parade of joy. Limón isn’t just a party town; it’s also the starting point for trips to some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful jungles and beaches. It’s where nature’s gifts are truly on full display.

The fact that reggae and salsa music often fills the air at night shows that Limón is a great place to live in Costa Rica. Life is honored there, and the people are just as friendly as the weather. Every day is a chance to experience the excitement of Caribbean life.

The sounds of African-Caribbean culture fill Limón's streets.
Beyond being a party town, Limón serves as the gateway to some of Costa Rica’s most stunning beaches and rainforest.

8. Liberia

The capital of Guanacaste, Liberia, is a beautiful mix of old and new. The streets are lined with whitewashed colonial buildings, and all the modern services you could want are right outside your door. Liberia is the entrance to the beaches and wildlife that make Guanacaste a jewel of the Pacific. It is known as the “White City” because of its sun-baked adobe buildings. This city is the best place to live in Costa Rica for people who like the benefits of city life but also want to be close to nature’s beauty.

The international airport in the city is a hub of transportation that makes getting in and out of the city easy for both locals and tourists. Liberia also has cultural festivals that show off the country’s traditions, such as bullfights without killing that show a deep respect for life.

The parks become places where families and friends get together as evening comes and the city slows down. Liberia’s reputation as the best city to live in Costa Rica is bolstered by its strong sense of community, strategic location, and embrace of both tradition and progress. It offers a way of life that is as full of chance as it is of culture.

The beaches and ecology of Guanacaste, which are considered to be a treasure of the Pacific, are accessible through Liberia.
The beaches and ecology of Guanacaste, which are considered to be a treasure of the Pacific, are accessible through Liberia.

9. Monteverde

Monteverde is Costa Rica’s hidden gem, nestled in the heart of cloud forests. It’s not just a place; it’s a lifestyle. Here, nature is your daily reality. Imagine waking up to howler monkeys and hummingbirds right outside your window. It’s like living inside a nature documentary.

The community vibe here is something else. It’s a cozy mix of locals, artists, and nature lovers. Everyone knows each other, and life has a chill, laid-back rhythm.

You’re always just steps away from an adventure, whether exploring cloud forests or zip-lining through the treetops. And the coffee? It’s the best you’ll ever have. Living in Monteverde means every day is a chance to connect with nature and a warm community.

Nestled amidst cloud woods, Monteverde is a hidden jewel of Costa Rica.
Nestled amidst cloud woods, Monteverde is a hidden jewel of Costa Rica.

10. San José

San José is the beating heart of Costa Rica, buzzing with life and city vibes. It’s the go-to spot in the country if you love the energy of a bustling city.

Here, the streets tell stories of history and the future. You’ve got museums and theaters sharing Costa Rica’s past, while cool art spots and cafes show off its modern side. The neighborhoods are super diverse too. Think old-school charm in Barrio Amón and trendy vibes in Escazú.

When night falls and the city lights up, San José really shines. It’s the ultimate city spot in Costa Rica. Every corner’s got something new, the people are as diverse as the views, and the whole place buzzes with that ‘pura vida’ spirit.

The vibrant metropolis of San José, Costa Rica, is the country's beating heart.
The vibrant metropolis of San José, Costa Rica, is the country’s beating heart.

11. Tamarindo

Tamarindo’s got it all – crystal-clear waters and a nightlife that just won’t quit. It’s the ultimate chill beach town. Surfers, sun lovers, and fans of the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle flock here, making it one of Costa Rica’s coolest spots to live. It’s the perfect mix of chill vibes and fun times.

The beach here? It’s like everyone’s shared backyard. Locals and expats hang out, swapping tales under palm trees. With the town growing, there’s no shortage of cool international eateries, quirky shops, and places to unwind and recharge.

When the sun dips and the sky turns all shades of fire, you really see why Tamarindo’s a top pick in Costa Rica. It’s like being on a never-ending holiday. Catch some waves, kick back, and soak up that tropical mood. This place just gets into your soul.

Tamarindo has it all, with unceasing nightlife and pristine waters.
Tamarindo has it all, with unceasing nightlife and pristine waters.

12. Uvita

Looking for a serene coastal village nestled in the Marino Ballena National Park? Uvita is a sanctuary for those seeking tranquility and a deep connection with nature. This hidden gem, with its unspoiled beaches and lush rainforests, is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts. It’s a best place to live in Costa Rica for those who yearn for a peaceful retreat.

The town is famed for the ‘Whale’s Tail,’ a natural sandbar formation that beckons explorers at low tide. Uvita’s community is tight-knit, bound by a shared reverence for the environment and a commitment to sustainable living. Here, life moves to the rhythm of the tides, and the humpback whales’ seasonal migrations mark the passage of time.

As dusk falls and the sounds of the jungle come alive, Uvita’s allure as the best towns to live in Costa Rica becomes more apparent. It’s a locale where the footprint is light and the air is pure. The pace of life here allows for the full savoring of each moment under the vast Costa Rican sky.

Uvita is a haven for people looking for peace and a close relationship with the natural world.
Uvita is a haven for people looking for peace and a close relationship with the natural world.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Best Places to Live in Costa Rica 

Interested in learning more about top residential spots in Costa Rica? Here are frequently asked questions about the state’s best living areas.

What is the nicest part of Costa Rica to live in?

Determining the nicest part of Costa Rica to live in is a personal choice, as each area offers its own unique blend of beauty and lifestyle. Here are some top contenders:

  • Monteverde: For those who find peace in the misty tranquility of cloud forests and value sustainability.
  • Escazú: Perfect for lovers of luxury and modern conveniences, mixed with cultural charm.
  • Tamarindo: Ideal for beach enthusiasts and surfers, with a vibrant community and nightlife.
  • Uvita: Offers a quiet, nature-focused lifestyle with stunning natural beauty and wildlife.

Where is the safest and cheapest place to live in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica, safety and affordability often go hand in hand, and many areas offer a blend of both. Here are the most livable cities in Costa Rica that are known for their safety and cost-effectiveness:

  • Heredia: Known as the City of Flowers, Heredia is not only safe but also offers a lower cost of living compared to the more tourist-centric areas. It’s a place where community and tradition stand strong amidst the rolling coffee plantations.
  • Atenas: Has one of the best climates in the world. Atenas is a small town that boasts a safe environment. The cost of living is attractive to retirees and expats looking for a peaceful lifestyle.

Where is the best place to raise a family in Costa Rica?

When it comes to raising a family, where is the best place to live in Costa Rica? There are several factors to consider like safety, education, and community come into play. Here are some places that are often recommended for families:

  • Heredia: This is a top choice for families. It offers friendly neighborhoods, excellent schools, and proximity to nature and city amenities. The town is safe, culturally rich, and offers a variety of activities for all ages.
  • San José: The capital city provides numerous educational opportunities, from reputable schools to cultural institutions. It’s a bustling urban environment that’s rich in experiences and learning opportunities.
  • Cartago: Known for its historical significance and family-friendly atmosphere. Cartago offers a quieter pace of life with access to good schools and a strong sense of community.
Beyond just a travel destination, Costa Rica embodies a way of life, a sense of society and for many, it has become their new home.
Beyond just a spot to visit, Costa Rica reflects a way of life, a sense of society and for a few, it has become their new home.

What part of Costa Rica do most expats live in?

Expats in Costa Rica tend to gravitate towards areas that offer a blend of comfort, community, and convenience. Here are some of the most popular spots:

  • Central Valley: Including towns like Escazú and Heredia, the Central Valley is popular for its temperate climate, modern amenities, and proximity to the capital city of San José.
  • Guanacaste Province: Known for its beautiful beaches and expat-friendly towns like Tamarindo, this region is a hotspot for those looking for a tropical beach lifestyle.
  • Southern Pacific Coast: Areas like Dominical and Uvita are increasingly popular for their natural beauty and more laid-back, off-the-beaten-path appeal.

Where do rich people live in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica, the affluent often seek out areas that offer exclusivity, luxury, and breathtaking natural beauty. Here are some of the places to move in Costa Rica for the rich:

  • Escazú: Known as the Beverly Hills of Costa Rica. Escazú is a favorite for its high-end homes, luxury shopping, and private schools, making it a top choice for the wealthy.
  • Santa Ana: Close to Escazú. Santa Ana combines upscale living with a more relaxed atmosphere, featuring gated communities and country clubs.
  • Guanacaste Province: Particularly the Papagayo Peninsula, which is renowned for its opulent resorts, private villas, and exclusive beaches.

What is the richest town in Costa Rica?

The title of the richest town in Costa Rica goes to Escazú. This is located in the Central Valley near the capital, San José. Escazú is famous for its affluent neighborhoods, luxury condos, high-end shopping centers, and private schools. It attracts both wealthy locals and expats alike. This is a hub of upscale living with a variety of fine dining, exclusive boutiques, and modern amenities that cater to a luxurious lifestyle.

Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Live in Costa Rica

As you consider your journey to this Central American paradise, think about what you want your daily backdrop to be. Reflect on the community you wish to be a part of. Costa Rica is more than a destination. It’s a lifestyle, a community, and for many, it becomes a new place to call home.

For those ready to take the leap, the adventure of a lifetime awaits. Costa Rica is not just a place to live; it’s a place to live well. Embrace the ‘Pura Vida’ and find your perfect spot in this land of beauty and life. The best time to explore is now, and the best way to know is to experience it yourself. So why wait? Start planning your Costa Rican living adventure today.

The top places to live in Costa Rica right now
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